An impassioned biography of “a coherent and consistent thinker who adhered to his core political convictions across his...

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS

MILITANT SPIRIT

The life of an early American statesman and president who served as the young nation’s strenuous conscience.

Traub (Foreign Policy/New York Univ.; The Freedom Agenda: Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just Not the Way George Bush Did), 2008, etc.) thoroughly explores the life of John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), a “hard man” of deep erudition and conviction who descended from the American aristocracy and learned at the knees of an exacting father and mother what the great American governing principles meant for world leadership and peace. The author emphasizes his subject’s long, somewhat reluctant middle career as a diplomat, from his first posting in 1794 to the Hague to St. Petersburg and then to the Court of St. James during a turbulent time in European history. Breaking with his father’s Federalist Party over its Anglophilism at a time of trade and shipping tensions with Britain, Adams pursued an admirable, if tendentious, course of nonpartisanship over the course of his political career, from senator to secretary of state (under James Monroe) to one-term president to Massachusetts congressman (he was the first and only ex-president to serve in Congress). Traub examines how much Adams contributed to what became known as the Monroe Doctrine. “What Adams may have contributed most…was its astringency,” writes the author. Although Adams was a proponent of American expansion, he became intensely concerned at the question of admission of slave versus free states in the Missouri Compromise of 1820. During the latter part of his life as a congressman, he “seized the role of chief tormentor of the slavocracy” and represented in front of the Supreme Court the mutinous African captives aboard the Amistad. Most of all, Traub depicts a fully fleshed character, an extraordinary man driven by his birthright principles, a voluminous diarist, scholar, poet, polymath, eccentric, and iconoclast. The author also offers a masterly portrait of Adams’ wife, Louisa.

An impassioned biography of “a coherent and consistent thinker who adhered to his core political convictions across his decades of public service.”

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-02827-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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